Study objective: To assess the association between socioeconomic status (SES) and short-acting (SA) beta-agonist use, controlling for asthma severity.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Setting: Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Participants: Two hundred two asthmatics between 19 years and 50 years of age and residing in the greater Vancouver regional district.
Measurements: The quantity of SA beta-agonist used in the previous year was collected by self-report; pulmonary function and beta-receptor genotype were measured on each participant. SES was measured at both the individual and population levels. Five methods of adjustment for asthma severity were used, as follows: the Canadian Asthma Consensus Guidelines, three previously developed asthma-severity scores, and forward stepwise multiple regression modeling. Polychotomous logistic regression was used to assess all relationships.
Results: Independent of the method used to measure SES or adjust for asthma severity, lower SES was consistently and significantly associated with the use of greater amounts of SA beta-agonist. Adjusting for severity using the multivariate model explained the most variance of SA beta-agonist use (R(2) adjusted, 0.35 to 0.37). In this model, social assistance recipients were more likely to use greater amounts of SA beta-agonist (odds ratio [OR], 3.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.7 to 6.5). An inverse relationship between SA beta-agonist use and both annual household income (> $50,000; OR, 0.28; 95% CI, 0.13 to 0.60; and $20,000 to $50,000; OR, 0.44; 95% CI, 0.21 to 0.96; relative to <$20,000) and education (completing a bachelor's degree vs no formal education; OR, 0.25; 95% CI, 0.14 to 0.71). Participants living in a neighborhood with higher median household income (OR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.84 to 0.98 per $1,000 increase) or a higher prevalence of having attained a bachelor's degree (OR, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.84 to 0.98 per 1% increase) were also less likely use greater amounts of SA beta-agonist. Results were consistent for neighborhood unemployment rate.
Conclusions: The social gradient in asthma-related outcomes may be at least partially attributable to poorer asthma control in lower-SES asthmatics.